Off to Paris for a long weekend in a couple of weeks. It has been a while. 3 years? 4?
I had a fleeting visit more recently during a 5 hour gap between flights at CdG. A trip into the city for a pizza was better than sitting around for all that time.
My first visit was in September 1972. I attended a week long induction course at the Sorbonne, before heading off to Toulouse for 9 months. Toulouse instilled in me the southerners’ dislike of all things Parisian!
I passed through or visited a few times in the 70s. In the 80s I was there a couple of times for France v Scotland rugby internationals. The memories are a little vague. Mind you I do remember a fun dinner in Montmartre and getting to know the 2 young ladies at the next table. Boozy rugby weekend became a romantic one.
By one of those strange twists of fate she was from Bamako in Mali. A country which is not often in the limelight (to put it mildly) but has been headline news this week as I’ve been booking accommodation for Paris next month.
I was a regular visitor to the city in the 90s – on business. A great lunch outdoors at the Maison de L’Amérique Latine comes to mind.
So does a lovely dinner in the Pyramide at the Louvre, followed by way too many digestifs at the Deux Magots with Gerald and another Irish lawyer. I hate to stereotype, but the 2 Irish – one from Cork and the other a Catholic from Belfast – got into a political discussion and fell out with each other very quickly.
One of the best was taking my son there – Eurodisney, the Eiffel Tower etc – when he was 7 or 8. Our first trip alone. That must have been 2000.
That was another decade of frequent visits, but social and not business. I did get to know the place much better. No rugby or work to distract me. We even spent a Christmas there.
I couldn’t claim it dispelled the prejudices I picked up in Toulouse, but it did diminish them.
How it has changed since the 70s. An example – on one visit in the late 00s we (my son, Saadet and I) got on the RER (the suburban train system) in the city center to head out to Sceaux in the southern suburbs. At the next stop, a woman in her 30s got on and sat opposite us. She fumbled in her handbag, took out a wee pipe and smoked crack (or something) right there in front of everyone.
So, looking forward to next month. Four nights in an apartment close to the Pompidou Centre. Sightseeing – because its D’s first visit to the city, and some good lunches and dinners.
© iain taylor 2013